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Avoiding Patient Billing Disasters

In the middle of a snowstorm complete with icy roads, work shutdowns, and school closures across Atlanta, it’s hard not to think about the lasting effects of extreme weather. Natural disasters including hurricanes, earthquakes, and blizzards have a negative impact that people feel long after the event passes.

The same can be true for confusion caused by patient payments and billing processes. You’re headed towards a patient billing disaster if your patients complain that your billing and communications process is inconvenient for them, or they’re unsure of how much they owe because they’ve received multiple or confusing paper bills. Additionally, it can be frustrating for patients if they want to know their out-of-pocket costs up front and staff can’t provide an answer.

Convenient payment options and better price transparency are critical for today’s consumers as they navigate the world of higher-deductible health plans. In short, when it comes time to pay their bills, they want the same conveniences they already experience in other industries such as banking and retail.

On the flip side, if your organization hasn’t evolved to meet consumer demand, your cumbersome and out-of-touch processes can easily lead patients to pursue a provider with preferred digital options that better meet their needs.

Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do to prepare — and avoid this kind of disaster. You can start by offering digital payment options that give patients what they want, including:

  • Sending bills and other billing communications via email — or text, if that’s what the patient prefers
  • Online payment tools that allow patients to pay their bills electronically, set up automated payment plans, and pay larger balances over time
  • The ability to pay small balances (under $200) using a securely stored credit card that is kept on file

Next, add an estimation tool that empowers your revenue cycle team to provide patients with an estimated cost of care upfront. These tools include real-time eligibility checks to determine unmet deductibles and co-insurance amounts. At the same time, they leverage fee schedules and/or historical claims data to determine the amount a payer has reimbursed for like services in the past. Having this capability not only creates better price transparency but also helps patients plan and budget for their responsibility — both great ways to improve patient satisfaction.

Ultimately, providing more convenient payment options and offering patient estimates is a safe way to avoid disaster in your practice. Want to learn more? Read HMA report: 3 facts about today’s patient financial journey to know now.



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